Welcome to the third article in our series, an initiative of HopgoodGanim Lawyers’ Manufactured Homes team designed to provide operators and developers with information about the requirements for establishing and operating a park, from its acquisition and development through to its sale.

This article, authored by Senior Associate Damon King, outlines why park owners are subject to work health and safety laws in the operation of a park and, in particular, how park owners may satisfy their obligations in relation to providing adequate first aid resources for home owners, workers and members of the public who may visit the park from time to time.

Work health and safety laws

Statutory obligations and guidelines regarding work health and safety (WHS) in Queensland, including the obligation to provide first aid resources, are contained in each of the following:

Under the WHS Act, any person who is “conducting a business or undertaking” (such as operating a manufactured home park) has a general duty to ensure that workers (e.g. employees and contractors) and other persons (home owners and visitors), are not exposed to WHS risks arising from work carried out as part of that business or undertaking.

This general duty extends to taking steps which are reasonably practicable to prevent those WHS risks, particularly taking into account:

  • the likelihood of the hazard or the risk concerned occurring;
  • the degree of harm that might result from the hazard or the risk;
  • what the person concerned knows, or ought reasonably know, about:
    • the hazard or the risk; and
    • ways of eliminating or minimising the risk;
  • the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk; and
  • after assessing the extent of the risk and the available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, the cost associated with eliminating or minimising the risk, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk.

Park operators must comply with the above legislative framework to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the WHS of its workers and home owners living at the park, as well as visitors that enter the park.

Specific obligations to provide first aid resources

Aside from other matters, the WHS Regulations impose a positive duty on a person conducting a business or undertaking to ensure that:

  • adequate first aid equipment is provided;
  • each person has access to:
    • the first aid equipment (first aid kits and other equipment used to treat injuries and illnesses); and
    • adequate facilities for the administration of first aid (such as first aid rooms, health centres, clean water supplies and other facilities needed for administering first aid);
  • a sufficient number of first aiders (a person who has completed a nationally accredited training course or an equivalent level of training that has given them the competencies required to administer first aid) are trained or otherwise provided to administer first aid.

The WHS Code specifically explains how to meet the above obligations which vary depending on the size of the business or undertaking, including the number of persons who work there.

Meeting your first aid obligations

The WHS Code provides that a reasonable ratio for a low risk workplace would be one first aider for every 50 workers, whereas, in a high risk workplace, that ratio is one first aider for every 25 workers. Depending upon the number of workers at the park and residents and also visitors using or occupying common areas, as well as taking into account any older demographic within the park, it would be prudent to have at least one (maybe more) first aiders available to administer first aid, if and when the need arises.

The WHS Code additionally provides:

  • that qualified first aiders should attend training on a regular basis to refresh their first aid knowledge and skills and to confirm their competence to provide first aid; and
  • guidelines on the number of first aid kits to be provided and their minimum contents.

The obligation to provide first aid would not generally extend to having a defibrillator at a business or undertaking. However, in some businesses and undertakings this might be something which would be reasonably practicable in order to prevent WHS risks and to ensure compliance with the primary duty within the WHS Act. The WHS Code outlines (see section 3.3) the benefits of having a defibrillator in certain circumstances (e.g. where there are large numbers of the public within the workplace).

A 2014 survey about the Manufactured Homes (Residential Parks) Act 2003identified less than 3% of park residents in Australia were below the age of 55. An increasing national risk of cardiac arrest in people over the age of 45, considered with the relatively low cost of defibrillators (approximately $2,000 to $4,000), lends weight to the argument that an onsite defibrillator would also be necessary (and reasonably practicable) in order to meet WHS obligations.

Finally, the WHS Act provides a positive obligation on those conducting a business or undertaking to consult with their workers and those who are likely to be directly affected by a WHS matter with respect to making decisions on important WHS matters.

Non-compliance costs

Compliance with the requirements in the WHS Act, Regulations and Code is important. Failure to comply may result in substantial penalties including potential criminal proceedings. Penalties apply of up to $3 million for a corporation and $600,000 and 5 years jail for an individual conducting a business or undertaking (including an officer of a corporation).